Thursday, November 12, 2009

Observing ... Disturbing ...Silencio!

A freshman in my Spanish I class surprised me this morning when she came up to my desk and began to whisper to me. Have you ever heard slurred whispered words through braces? Well, I didn't either! So, I inquired again what as to what she said. No better the second time around. But she looked more earnest, and I hadn't the heart to say I still had no idea what she had just said.

Typical of me.

Let me state this for the record for everyone to hear: On the best of days, I have a hearing problem! Did you catch that? Do I need to tell you again? Louder? No? Now everyone knows! I wear very small (and wonderfully compact!) hearing aids, which work really well. 91% well, to be exact! Except for the clear tiny wire, no one would even know. That's my problem. Most people don't know. So, I can get away with not really hearing if I don't insist on absolute clear communication. Which I do, the majority of the time. After all, that's pretty essential in a language classroom, wouldn't you say?

I'm working on ridding myself of this crazy, false pride the few times that I don't insist. But I'm not totally 'there' yet. So, I choose my battles. This was one battle I let pass.

As you might guess, the flu has affected my hearing. I feel as if I am an ocean away from people. So, not only am I only at 91% at best, I wasn't even at 91% today! So, when my student whispered to me before the start of class with such a hopeful expression on her face, I smiled and nodded. She returned to her seat with a happy gait, having accomplished her purpose.

A minute or so before eleven o'clock this morning, she began to cough and point frantically to the clock on the wall. I nodded and continued with my lesson. The class took a lively interest in the dramatic show of attention the time received. I directed their attention to the class activity at hand.

"Por favor, silencio!" I admonished.

"Si, si!" they shouted, "Silencio!"

A wave of "Silencio's" tore through the classroom, complete with nine sets (of double arms) waving up and down and pointing to the clock in fairly synchronized movements. But with my vision, the arms looked fuzzy to me. Was I seeing double? It seemed like a comedic pantomime, and increased the unreal far-away oceanic sense I was experiencing this morning.

I stared at these lunatic students of mine in mid-activity. Han ido todos locos? Had they all gone mad?

Then, the unthinkable happened.

I turned to find my place in the book, which I'd placed on a music stand that I use as a "podium." In retrospect, this is much too fragile of a piece of equipment to ever hold a book in place. The excitement in the class caught me off balance. I pushed the page of the teacher's text a bit too hard to emphasize my command (I guess I don't know my own strength!). The music stand slid two inches lower. When I tried to pull it up again, my wrist caught the leg and I threw it backwards. With a thud, it bounced off the whiteboard, and crashed sideways to the floor. The teacher's text slid three feet to the right, upside down, and creased the page terribly.

But it didn't stop there.

My poor vision caused more commotion!

I tripped over the base of the music stand and pitched sideways into a special desk that held a fan -- which happened to be turned on! The black whiteboard marker I was holding flew toward the fan. For one terrible moment, I was afraid that the marker would get sucked in to the blades. My worst case scenario: the blade chewing up the marker would then echo out my open window to the old "empty" sanctuary on the other side. That racket would then reverberate on down to the principal's office. She would then, in turn, be forced to come running to my classroom. The scenario was all a little too much for me! I started to feel faint...

My hearing aid suddenly picked up all kinds of sounds and magnified them, mostly the peals of laughter coming from my students open mouths.

"Bet you didn't know your 'profesora' was so wild, did you?" I joked in an attempt to retrieve my dignity and to surreptitiously check for bruising or broken bones. "Where is my cane when I need it?" I asked as I tried to normalize the classroom situation.

"It's back by your desk. Do you want me to get it?"

"No, gracias. Un chiste. Just a joke!"

"Mann, now it's too LATE!" The student sounded very put out.

"Como?" What?

I received no response. The students were too busy falling off their chairs, trying to hold their belly-defying laughter in check.

One kind student got up to pick up the teacher's text and smooth out the page. Another picked up the music stand and set it upright.

One anxious student asked if I were okay. Note: Only one.

The students finally calmed down.

"Why were you acting so crazy? What were you trying to tell me just a minute ago? What were you all flailing your arms about?" I asked the students.

The student who whispered to me answered for everyone, "I told you. We had to observe a moment of silence at exactly eleven o'clock because everyone in the United States is supposed to do that at the same time. Today is Veteran's Day!"

"Ohhh," Everyone cracked up, including me.

"Vamos a hacerlo ahora." Let's do it now.

"It's not the same at all." exclaimed the one who said we were too late, "It doesn't count."

Silence is golden, but not my classroom! Our SILENCIO is the noisiest sound we hear! Well, maybe not me.

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